Stephen Gillanders wanted to open his dream restaurant in LA, but life took him to Chicago where he worked at Intro Chicago as the executive chef for the Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises restaurant. Time allowed him to tweak his idea, and on Friday he unveils S.K.Y., to showcase what he learned in his travels through Asia and other parts of the world and bring that to Pilsen at 1238 W. 18th Street. Combine all those cultures, and S.K.Y.’s food represents modern America.
A former corporate chef for Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Gillanders’s search for restaurant space took him to a vacant building, most recently used as medical office space, in Pilsen. Construction crews gutted the room, and designers transformed it into an 80-seat space that includes a four-seat chef’s counter. Gillanders’s wife, Seon Kyung Yuk — the restaurant’s namesake — helped design the space, modeling it after some of her favorite spots in Milan. She rehabbed antique shelving that’s used at the service stations. Since Pilsen is one of the city’s centers for visual art, and S.K.Y. tries to pay homage to that by making the dining room feel like an art studio. GM Charles Ford, who worked as the GM and wine director at The Bristol in Bucktown, hopes that customers will utilize the restaurant’s lounge for a pre-concert drink before a show across the street at Dusek’s Thalia Hall.
The menu offers flexibility. There’s a six-course tasting menu for $49 with an optional wine pairing. The item portions allow both sharing and can accommodate individual-plated meals. The priciest item is caramelized diver scallops at $28. Gillanders touted the Maine lobster dumplings, and they’re here in all of its jade butter glory. Foie gras bibimbap and Korean prime beef short rib are also highlights.
S.K.Y. hasn’t secured its liquor license, so it’s BYO for the opening. Gillanders’s Filipino mother sent him to his first cooking class at age 15. Now she can see what she ignited. S.K.Y. officially opens tonight in Pilsen. Take a tour of the space below and read Gillanders’s menu.
S.K.Y., 1238 W. 18th Street., (312) 846-1077, open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday; 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; closed Monday and Tuesday. Reservations available via Reserve.